Press Release

Maine Ranked Third-Best State for Animal Protection Laws

2023 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report Released


SAN FRANCISCO, CA — For the first time, Oregon ranks as the top state for animal protection laws according to the annual U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Ranking Report published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals.

The longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind, the 18th annual year-end report (2023) assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of each U.S. state and territory’s animal protection laws, and ranks them accordingly.

Oregon is followed by Maine (2), Illinois (3), Massachusetts (4), and Colorado (5). In 2023, North Dakota sank to the bottom of the rankings in 50th place, with Alabama (49), Idaho (48), South Carolina (47), and Kentucky (46) rounding out the states with the weakest animal protection laws.

Maine earned its second-place ranking because state lawmakers have led the way in passing important animal protection measures. For example, Maine has some of the most comprehensive neglect laws in the country, with thorough definitions for the standards of care that guardians must provide to their animals. Additionally, Maine is one of just two states with a Courtroom Animal Advocate Program (CAAP) law, which permits the court to appoint an attorney to serve as a third-party advocate in animal cruelty cases to voice the interests of the animal victim. Even in Maine, there is room for improvement; for example, there are several important sentencing measures that are currently left up to the court’s discretion rather than mandated, including restitution for abused animals’ costs of care, and psychological evaluations for convicted animal cruelty offenders.

A new trend highlighted in the report is “bond-or-forfeit” laws, which help alleviate the financial burden on cities and counties caring for animals who have been seized pursuant to an animal cruelty case. It may take months or even years before a criminal case is fully adjudicated. During that time, the animal victims are often left in a type of legal limbo, being cared for by a local city or county shelter while still technically being the property of the defendant. The costs of caring for these animals accumulate quickly, especially if the animals require extensive veterinary treatment to recover from their neglect or abuse. “Bond-or-forfeit” laws resolve this issue by requiring the defendant to either post a bond covering the costs of caring for the animal or forfeit their property interest in the animal so they can be adopted out into a new, loving home.

“Each year, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is encouraged to see many jurisdictions strengthening their animal protection laws to improve the well-being of animals,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Chris Green. “However, this annual evaluation shows that, regardless of rank, every state and territory still has room to improve, and additional legislative progress is needed to ensure that all animals are afforded the same level of protection across the country.”

The rankings track which states are taking animal protection seriously and are based on a comprehensive review of each jurisdiction’s animal protection laws, including over 3,600 pages of statutes.

The full report, including details about each state, is available at

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